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Comment Economic growth (Score 2) 83

Sorry but no. Let's not be dogmatic about this, shall we? Authoritarianism really can outpace free societies in economic growth.

When the objective is clear, as in when your population haven't got basic appliances or sufficient housing, it's much more efficient to take an engineer's approach to the problem than allowing every tom dick and harry clutter up decision making with their combined ignorance and stupidity. Look at e.g. Singapore. Autocracy is what propelled it upwards out of the marsh it was in.

Also. successful companies don't operate by popular vote either.

There comes a point when the road ahead is less clear ... and there free societies have the advantage because they can afford to try everything and keep what is good.

Comment Balanced (Score 1) 414

French criminal law is different from the US. For cases involving penalties of up to 15 years of prison, guilt isn't determined by a jury but by a judge.

Plus laws pertaining to State Security are a bit sharper there and less encumbered by checks and balances.

From the desciription It sounds as if the French authorities were careful to collect evidence that might allow one of their judges to decide whether the suspect was merely curious or a sympathiser (and hence in breach of their anti-terrorism laws). It looks as if that evidence led their judge to decide that man was a sympathiser. Hence the sentence.

Internet is a main source of radicalisation. Given that dragnet internet surveillance will show such browsing, it offers an opportunity to go after people engaging in it.

Not exactly what would have been done in the US as it is today, but not unreasonable either. Given mr. Trump and his right-wing radical cabinet appointees I guess this will become policy in the US too. Perhaps with appropriate window-dressing and executive orders.

Those who are counting on the House to block that, think again. Those who are counting on the Supreme Court to put a stop to that ... consider that mr. Trump has one vacancy to fill there already. And there may be more before his 4 years are done. Personally I don't think any judge who doesn't see eye to eye with radical right wing policies will stand a chance.

Therefore the way towards implementing precisely this measure in the US seems clear. Ironically the advent of mr. Trump seems to mean that the US will become a bit more European in this respect.

I believe that people are going to get what they voted for. Good and hard.

Comment Net worth ... (Score 1) 204

We may already have such an indicator over here. It's called "net worth".

Net worth determines what people you can hang around with, what neighbourhoods you can live in, how safe your residence is, how much comfort and security you enjoy when traveling, which clubs you can join, what schools your children can go to and what their prospects are, what medical care you can have, what your life expectancy is, how likely you are to have your legal rights respected (or enforced), and (to some extent) how the authorities treat you.

Scary if you look at it this way eh? Only ... we all accept it. It's how our society works. The only difference is: scores aren't determined by the state.

Comment Factchecking politifact is too much trouble? (Score 2) 400

Ah ... we have a typical Trump supporter here. Politifact explicitly listing the promises they grade mr. Obama on doesn't matter. Their discussing each of 25 promises before grading them doesn't matter. Would take too much time to read the lot anyway.

No ... the only thing that matters is some kind of ratty conspiracy theory connection between politifact and Democrats. Add a gratuitous slur on mrs. Clinton (nevermind that several investigative committees failed to come up with paydirt).

Nah, typical Trump supporters don't deal with facts. Too much hassle. Makes their poor little minds tired and confused.

Much better go with something that sounds good and writes quick. Like a hint at conspiracy. Saves time, thinking, and effort. Great!

Comment Re:Yes. No. Maybe. (Score 1) 400


I understand. With mrs. Clinton you don't know if any shady dealings are going on. Certainly no evidence pointing at malfeasance ever surfaced. Despite intense investigations by thoroughly motivated political opponents. It doesn't matter of course. She's guilty of being a suspect and sounding and looking elitist.

With mr. Trump on the other hand, certain clear examples mixing between business interests with state business are out in the open. He's relatively open about it, perhaps because he doesn't know or doesn't care. Therefore his supporters don't either.

It's completely understandable that you, therefore, prefer someone who openly has conflicts of interests over someone who's been guilty of being suspected and being subjected to character assassination. Ah, the thinking of a Trump supporter. Mr. Trump would have been proud of you.

Comment Google just reflects the web (Score 1) 385

These results, while in themselves facts, aren't very meaningful facts.

Just consider this: Google works using a (modified) version of the pagerank algorithm. That algorithm ranks pages on importance as measured by referral links weighted by their rank, etc. etc.. Meaning that if the internet contains more coherent clusters of cross-referring pages of a lliberal/consevative signature referring to a page with a certain match string, those results will end up in Google results. It sort of reflects the intensity of discussion.

Apparently there are fewer conservative leaning pages in referring clusters than that link to "minimum wage" than liberal ones.


Try googling for "protect our second amenment rights" and count the liberal hits.

Comment Re:TLDR (Score 2) 186


Ideas and thought aren't demeaned by sharing them but they can stunted and distorted in retelling, grow far beyond their merits, and confuse people who are unable to think critically about what they read. All by sharing them in the wrong place.

Think of the "echo chamber effect" of e.g. Facebook. The whole scare of inocculations supposedly leading to autism. Birtherism. The Flat Earth theory. The whole "Obama is coming to get your guns" rubbish. The Hollow Earth theory. Fortune telling through Zodiac Signs. Various Perpetuum Mobile theories. Jihadism. Bundy supporters. All co-powered by Social Media.

There is no idea so wrong and stupid that it will not find adherents somewhere who will echo it and by doing so lend it credence on the same level as the average paper (in the eyes of people who are susceptible to lurid and/or extremist stories).

Social media have their uses, like e.g. LinkedIn. You can basically advertise your resume for free and make yourself available for networking. That's not bad.

Twitter and Facebook however just spin you an illusion. An illusion of community and an illusion of discourse.

Youtube is great for sharing all sorts of video clips, documentories, instruction video's lectures, amusement ... But it also helps spread Jihadism and convert hundreds of European teenagers to extremism. It also helps spread "gangsta rap", clips of people beating people into hospital (or a coffin), snuff movies, (in Mexico) propaganda for gang membership, probably leading impressionable teenagers to criminal activities they would not otherwise have thought of. Because it's "cool", you know?

Social media are enormous time sinks, we agree about that ... but they are a lot more than just that. They facilitate social interaction, and some of that is highly undesirable if not actively dangerous.

Comment Re:Finally (Score 1) 540

The fact that the article is optimistic doesn't mean it's correct. I realise that nowadays about 58 mln. out of 149 mln. jobs are managers and professionals versus 26 mln. service, 33 mln. sales, 14 mln. "natural resources" and 18 mln. production and transportation (see ). I understand that new technologies also produce new jobs and I don't want to be a doomsayer, but I still think the outlook for "ordinary" (i.e. low-skilled or unskilled) jobs is not good. Here's why.

Automation makes no business sense unless it contributes to the bottom line. Meaning it should be better, cheaper, or faster than existing human labour (preferably all three). If the total amount of (wage paying) man hours per unit of output isn't lower than without automation, it's not competitive. In all three cases it will mean a net reduction in human labour in a particular niche plus support jobs (insofar as they are billed through to the work they're replacing),.

In the past there were always new investment opportunities (new things to do; often new natural resources to exploit) that would absorb that labour, and offer a return on investment. In other words: it would drive up our collective wealth to more than pay for those new jobs.

For better or worse I don't quite see where the next big economic expansion is to come from (and if I did I wouldn't be telling you until I had secured a slice of the pie). I fear it may be absent.

Unfortunately some of the biggest niches in US labour market are in manual work: manufacturing things, mining, driving trucks, warehousing, janitorial work, and the service industry.

Ever read about the time when so much employment was in farming jobs? Mostly gone. Automated. Jobs absorbed by industry.

Manufacturing jobs are shifting. Some offshore. Some to automation. As far as I know, the bulk of shop floor manufacturing jobs (just look at the automobile industry) are assembly-type jobs (i.e. not skilled machining). Which can be automated as pick and place robots become more affordable and more capable.

Warehousing: same thing. Jobs being automated. Just ask Amazon. Easier to run 24/7 and no more restroom breaks.

Driving trucks seems on its way to being automated too. According to this site there are about 3.5 mln. truck drivers in the US. What if we can eliminate just the easiest 10% of those? See e.g. and and and here . Any ideas where about 350k former truck drivers will find employment? That's a lot of low-skilled jobs to offset by generating new demand. In fact, it's about 2% of the labour force (see ).

I believe that mr. Trump's recent win is mostly because whole groups of US citizens are facing the problem that what they have to offer (their labour) is no longer in demand. It can be (and often has been or is being) replaced by automation, different products, even cheaper competition offshore, or illegal immigrants. That should at least tell us that people are feeling the squeeze.

To continue a bit with mr. Trump: his promises seem to hinge on three economic pillars: erecting trade barriers, exploiting the commons for commercial gain (as in exchanging environmental protection statutes for operating profit), and injecting a trillion (as of yet unfinanced) dollars into infrastructure (nevermind that hte ASCE estimates $3.6 Trln. are needed before 2020 to fix everything)

I'm in favour of repairing the infrastructure, even if that means more borrowing. But the Republican majority in the House might not see it quite that way. And even then: how effective is it? How many jobs (plus knock on effects due to improved infrastructure) will we buy with those billions? And how long will they last?

Exploiting the commons is always a possibility. Politicians who wanted to defend the commons have lost the latest election. So: free for all on drilling and fracking, unfettered lumber cutting, a permissive stance towards dumping of industrial waste, etc., ought to turn a buck. Costs come later, of course (we can simply write off Flynt, but there may be more Flynts waiting to happen). Coal production can be ramped up again (at the cost of more emissions for which we'll all get a bill later), also restoring some employment. So: yes we can, but how much will it help ... and then what?

Will erecting trade barriers get us jobs back that were off shored? I really doubt it. Electronics supply chains tend to have their roots in Asia these days. To return one to the US, you need a whole ecosystem of local specialist suppliers that has atrophied here. Setting them up stateside will be a challenge to say the least. Not to mention costly. See e.g. and on the prospect of bring Apple production lines back. They're quite pessimistic. And bear in mind that these are Apple products, where the retail price is about 10 times the manufacturing cost. So how on earth are you going to do this with low-margin stuff? As I see it, Imposing a tariff on imports will simply mean the produce will get more expensive. Because a it's still not cost effective to do it stateside. Besides which, tariffs mean that a big incentive to undercut imported goods on price will be absent. Price parity is good enough.

Plus, I fear that in setting a more protectionist tone, we'll be exerting a chilling effect on global free trade as well. That could mean less exports (read jobs). Take a look here: and note the US is running a $50 bln. annual trade deficit with Mexico, with Mexico being the second largest export market of the US. When mr. Trump takes the US out of NAFTA, what effect will that have? Will that $50 bln. deficit really disappear, or will China be able to strike a comparable deal and edge out US firms in Mexico so that we'll keep the same deficit at a lower total trade value?

The same holds for TPP I fear. Mr. Trump is likely to ditch it and I think we've all read in the news that China is positively itching to bring all Pacific Rim countries into an agreement of its own devising. Clever little mr. Trump ... now the Chinese will be the ones writing the rules and calling the shots on trade agreements. Want to bet they won't frame those rules to our advantage?

And besides: just how effective will trade barriers be? If China were to find a country the US will want to have free trade agreements with (I'm thinking of the UK), install a few screwdriver plants, supply them with judiciously selected (cheap) parts and sub-assemblies, put in assembly robots, paste a sticker "made in the UK" on it and ship them to the US. By the time the resulting WTO complaint has been processed they'll have moved someplace else.

All in all I'm not optimistic about technology driven demand for labour and I'm quite pessimistic about the payoff of mr. Trump's plans (in sofar as they've been outlined).

The point (as I see it) was never "Will we see 95% unemployment ?" In the aftermath of the 2008 crisis unemployment settled down somewhat from 10% to 5% now (more jobs but also more low quality jobs).

The point is: even if we only see a 10% reduction in the low-skilled manufacturing and transport labour force due to automation (which seems a distinct possibility within the next 10 years), we'd still be looking at 2 mln. unemployed extra, and is bad enough. Plus those unemployed will be unevenly distributed geographically (think the rust belt).

And I haven't even considered office and admin support (18 mln.) jobs that could be automated.

All in all, the coming 10 years doesn't seem to be a good time to be a low-skilled employee. In part because of increased automation.

Comment IRS merely trying to do its job (Score 2) 124

I think this was to be expected.

Bitcoin and other electronic currencies are "property" (see e.g. )

Now the IRS doesn't automatically monitor all bank accounts: see e.g. here: http://peopleof.oureverydaylif... for

The IRS can however, force banks, foreign exchanges, and now electronic currency exchange houses, to disclose the identity of those engaged in transactions. It can do this to any individual or corporation if they decide to audit them: see here: As far as I know, criminal law does not necessarily apply. A mere administrative decision to audit someone (could even be selected at random) is enough. See and here

Of course, a complete regulatory framework for bitcoin and lookalikes hasn't yet materialised. According to this post: it took about a decade to establish it for derivatives, so one might expect the same for bitcoin.

So what we see is the IRS seeing how far it can go, but they seem to have a very strong case. They're not auditing anyone in particular, but merely tracing a web of payments. Could be an audit. And consider the alternative. Suppose for example that bitcoin exchanges need not disclose the names of participants in transactions on request. You'd have an instant on-shore tax evasion mechanism ... and that is against the general thrust of tax law in general, not to mention common sense.

So I'm afraid the IRS will get its way ... and will go even further. Block chains are electronic records of transactions. Therefore potentially every last blockchain involving electronic currency transactions could become subject of disclosure to the IRS.

Comment Re:Trump can't do squat... (Score 1) 235


Oh, and Trump will have The Button and there's not a damned thing anyone could do to stop him from pressing it whenever he wanted, short of Congress pre-emptively legislating that the system be dismantled (and if Trump commanded the armed forces not to comply?).

Fortunately you're wrong. There are checks and balances in place. Read this ... it cheered me up no end.

Comment Re:Multiple disaster rule (Score 1) 2837


The issues haven't magically gone away, have they? If we keep mum, Trump Supporters may not even realise they're being duped by the guy they, being so "mad", got elected. Or they might simply fail to catch on when President Trump (as I fervently hope) totally fails to make good on his election promises.

Even Trump Supporters will be able to discern things aren't looking up for them ... they will just need a little assistance in thinking through various cause and effect chains and realising what went wrong.

We should be willing to help them out. don't you think? Or they might not catch on and make the same mistake again in four years time.

Comment Re:Multiple disaster rule (Score 1) 2837


Ok, I get it, you're an advanced case of Trump Supporter. The problem with Trump supporters is however: they may be angry but they're really, really uninformed. I don't have the time to walk you down the list, but take health insurance now.

Go to "interstate insurance" says you. Alas ... that won't work.

See e.g. and here

Healthcare is expensive. And no matter how you slice the cake (just Google "risk pools"), those slices adds up to the same total. Cost has to be met through insurance premiums. That's how insurance works. And inter state insurance was already a possibility (states allowing). So unless you can drive costs down it's only a matter of spreading the burden, Ok? You'll end up paying the same as under the ACA. Read: your premiums aren't coming down.

How about trying to drive costs down then, eh? Well, you may have a point there. US health care is inefficient. See e,g,

Besides which, about one third seems to go to administrative overhead. See: So there clearly is scope for improvement. Go to a single payer system? Nope: that's Bernie Sanders idea ... and both Democrat and Republican voters closed that line of approach very firmly. Democrats preferred Clinto and Republicans vetoed anything but privatised insurance. Wanted market mechanisms. Hence the "exchanges" we're all so wild about. Got any other ideas? Lets hear 'em !

Operating costs then? Let's see how we might get there.

Hospitals in the US are still mostly non-profit. See e.g. But they're being privatised, and with it implementation of health care. So you're losing a bit of leverage there. Now what could you still do?

Drive down nurses salaries across the board? Really? You're going to need a lot of illegal Mexicans (or robots) to accomplish that. Wait ... your other objective was not to push working Americans out of their job? Hmm ... that's a problem.

Reduce doctors' salaries? Won't get you there 'cause they're not the biggest expense.

Reduce hospital costs? They're either privatised or not wildly unreasonable in cost/benefit terms. People have tried for decades. So: good luck with that.

Reduce the amount of money going into advanced medical technology accessible to collective insurance? Really? Tell people they're going to get second-class care unless they pay extra?

Reduce the potential for medical liability claims? And undermine the most entrenched checks-and-balances mechanism in US law?

Exclude people who are likely to incur more costs? Well, that's the medical insurer's traditional way. Just don't smoke, don't be obese, don't be old, don't have hereditary diseases ... and above all don't get ill and you'll be just fine.

Cap insurance coverage and let people who are uninsured or insufficiently drop dead? Well ... that seems viable. We're doing a bit of that already. Simply set the premium you think people should pay, multiply by the number of people, and there's your budget. Limit care to match the budget. Wait ... did anyone say: "Death panels"?

If anyone can come up with a working solution that isn't the ACA I'll cheer. Only I don't see one. People have been looking for only 20 years now. Pardon me if I'm the tiniest bit sceptic about claims of replacing the ACA with something Huuuuugely better from people who haven't a clue about what the problem is.

And President Trump, bless him, isn't someone you can tell that a stove is hot. He won't believe it and he'll he put his finger on it. Unfortunately Trump Supporters have the same tendency.

What Trump supporters are going to learn is that they are going to get only two out of three: campaign promises, inclusiveness, and realism. No amount of being "mad as hell" will get you out of that one.

Comment Multiple disaster rule (Score 1, Interesting) 2837

Interesting in the way of a train wreck.

My predictions:

Home politics

- say goodbye to collective medical insurance

- prepare for a radical right-wing supreme justice

- prepare for a tax system that's even more favourable for the rich, expect inequality in income net worth to increase sharply

- expect tax rises on the middle class to fill budgetary holes

- prepare for really stupid (and non-functional) "trickle down" economic policies

- prepare for an increase in racism and gender discrimination in society

- expect the education system to get worse

- expect environmental protection laws and oversight to be gutted

Foreign policy

- prepare for disastrously stupid and venal politics in Iraq and Syria, including the targeting of innocent civilians to get one or two terrorists

- prepare for extended US military commitment in Iraq, Syria

- prepare for major loss of US influence, partners, and significance in Asia

- prepare for disastrous policy with respect to China, probably leading to a trade war the US is going to lose, perhaps the start of a major military conflict in Asia

- prepare to lose big in geopolitical manoeuvring against a wily and resurgent Russia due to terminally stupid policies

Did I miss anything? Probably. I have total confidence in President Trump to exceed expectations on the above list.

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